His steps led him westward at first. West in the direction of the sunset. As he walked he came to the cross street that led south and east. This street edged the lake. His mind was filled with what he would do. He reminded himself to go slow. He needed to control his emotions to make good decisions. Calm thinking produced wise choices. First ice was no place for foolish thinking.
He was not only thinking about safety. He was thinking about what he would see. He remembered first ice walks with his father when he was younger. Boone smiled as he remembered the colors. He grinned at the thought of seeing the thousands of air bubbles trapped in the ice. His grin remained as these thoughts took him back to first ice last year. He thought the cracks and the impressive and connected network they made. He especially enjoyed the way cracks showed the depth of the ice. By looking down on them it was possible to see from the surface of the ice to where it met the water. Not only beautiful, they indicated how thick it was and if the ice was safe.
The last house along the lake was his point of entry to its ice. His dad knew the people who lived there. They enjoyed Boone’s enthusiasm for nature and even gave permission for him to walk on the edge of their lawn down to the lake. Boone was grateful. He reached the edge of the lake. Its ice was in front of him. He stopped there was a problem. The ice next to shore was dark. Just beyond it the ice was snow-covered. He knew from listening to both his dad and grandfather that the dark color meant liquid water had come up on the ice. The ice at the edge could be weaker. He picked a spot where the dark color was narrow. He could step out onto the snow-covered ice. He took a big step.
The ice held. It did not even crack. Boone was on ice. This was his first time alone. He turned and looked across the lake. The trees on the far shore looked dark. There were no houses on the other side. No one lived there. He wanted to walk in those woods. This wood was home to many birds. Deer lived there. There were rumors that even the tracks of a mountain lion had been seen there. A little shiver went down Boone’s spine as he stared across at the forest on the other side. He did not plan to only look. He planned to walk among the trees on that dark shore. He wanted to see and hear the birds there. He would do his own search for mountain lion tracks. He took a deep breath of the cold brisk air of early winter and turned to walk the ice near the shore. It would be safer at the edge even though it would take longer to get to the wood.
The stumps of trees frozen in the ice took his mind off the adventure awaiting him in the trees. As he walked closer, he could see the tracks of an animal that had gone there before him. Because they were filled with snow, he knew the animal had been here a few days earlier. He also knew that because they were a single line of tracks that a coyote likely made them. The thought of walking where a coyote had gone before added mystery. Boone wondered what the coyote had been hunting. The last tree stump was very weathered. Its bark gone. A short branch pointed out into the lake. Boone wondered how many birds had perched on this shelf of wood just above the water. He forgot about the coyote. His eyes drifted over the surface of the stump, wind and water had smoothed the surface.
As he walked past the stump he saw the cattail on the shore’s edge ahead of him. They gracefully swayed in the northwest wind. Their movement and color drew him. The golden cattail stalks were a beautiful contrast to the white snow he walked on. He wondered what animals moved in and out on the ice beneath these towering aquatic plants that lined this part of the lake shore. He thought a mink would find this area interesting. Mink eat muskrats and muskrats would come to eat the cattail here.
While he was a bit disappointed that snow had covered the ice before he arrived. He was thankful that the white covering made walking much easier, and he reminded himself, safer. A new thought came to mind. He stopped. He realized he was missing the cracks and the air bubbles. He knelt on the snow. With his mittens, he brushed off the thin layer of snow covering the ice. It was worth the effort.
His window was too small to see many cracks. But the bubbles were there. The dark color below told him liquid water was beneath the ice. Boone wondered how so many bubbles could become wrapped in the ice. He found joy in seeing bubbles in different layers of the ice. The faint blue color and the random placement of bubbles was beauty he enjoyed. While he marveled at the miracle and beauty of ice he remembered that he had not heard one crack as he walked. He relaxed a bit. The ice would hold and he would stay safe-and dry.
But, he would still walk near the shore. He would not take any unwise chances. He lifted his head toward the trees standing silently on the far shore. The ice would hold him. Soon, he would walk in those dark trees. He did not know what he would see next, but he knew it would be wonderful. It was time to be moving.
(coming soon: Into the Forest)